FreeSync Features

In many ways FreeSync and G-SYNC are comparable. Both refresh the display as soon as a new frame is available, at least within their normal range of refresh rates. There are differences in how this is accomplished, however.

G-SYNC uses a proprietary module that replaces the normal scaler hardware in a display. Besides cost factors, this means that any company looking to make a G-SYNC display has to buy that module from NVIDIA. Of course the reason NVIDIA went with a proprietary module was because adaptive sync didn’t exist when they started working on G-SYNC, so they had to create their own protocol. Basically, the G-SYNC module controls all the regular core features of the display like the OSD, but it’s not as full featured as a “normal” scaler.

In contrast, as part of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard, Adaptive Sync (which is what AMD uses to enable FreeSync) will likely become part of many future displays. The major scaler companies (Realtek, Novatek, and MStar) have all announced support for Adaptive Sync, and it appears most of the changes required to support the standard could be accomplished via firmware updates. That means even if a display vendor doesn’t have a vested interest in making a FreeSync branded display, we could see future displays that still work with FreeSync.

Having FreeSync integrated into most scalers has other benefits as well. All the normal OSD controls are available, and the displays can support multiple inputs – though FreeSync of course requires the use of DisplayPort as Adaptive Sync doesn’t work with DVI, HDMI, or VGA (DSUB). AMD mentions in one of their slides that G-SYNC also lacks support for audio input over DisplayPort, and there’s mention of color processing as well, though this is somewhat misleading. NVIDIA's G-SYNC module supports color LUTs (Look Up Tables), but they don't support multiple color options like the "Warm, Cool, Movie, User, etc." modes that many displays have; NVIDIA states that the focus is on properly producing sRGB content, and so far the G-SYNC displays we've looked at have done quite well in this regard. We’ll look at the “Performance Penalty” aspect as well on the next page.

One other feature that differentiates FreeSync from G-SYNC is how things are handled when the frame rate is outside of the dynamic refresh range. With G-SYNC enabled, the system will behave as though VSYNC is enabled when frame rates are either above or below the dynamic range; NVIDIA's goal was to have no tearing, ever. That means if you drop below 30FPS, you can get the stutter associated with VSYNC while going above 60Hz/144Hz (depending on the display) is not possible – the frame rate is capped. Admittedly, neither situation is a huge problem, but AMD provides an alternative with FreeSync.

Instead of always behaving as though VSYNC is on, FreeSync can revert to either VSYNC off or VSYNC on behavior if your frame rates are too high/low. With VSYNC off, you could still get image tearing but at higher frame rates there would be a reduction in input latency. Again, this isn't necessarily a big flaw with G-SYNC – and I’d assume NVIDIA could probably rework the drivers to change the behavior if needed – but having choice is never a bad thing.

There’s another aspect to consider with FreeSync that might be interesting: as an open standard, it could potentially find its way into notebooks sooner than G-SYNC. We have yet to see any shipping G-SYNC enabled laptops, and it’s unlikely most notebooks manufacturers would be willing to pay $200 or even $100 extra to get a G-SYNC module into a notebook, and there's the question of power requirements. Then again, earlier this year there was an inadvertent leak of some alpha drivers that allowed G-SYNC to function on the ASUS G751j notebook without a G-SYNC module, so it’s clear NVIDIA is investigating other options.

While NVIDIA may do G-SYNC without a module for notebooks, there are still other questions. With many notebooks using a form of dynamic switchable graphics (Optimus and Enduro), support for Adaptive Sync by the Intel processor graphics could certainly help. NVIDIA might work with Intel to make G-SYNC work (though it’s worth pointing out that the ASUS G751 doesn’t support Optimus so it’s not a problem with that notebook), and AMD might be able to convince Intel to adopt DP Adaptive Sync, but to date neither has happened. There’s no clear direction yet but there’s definitely a market for adaptive refresh in laptops, as many are unable to reach 60+ FPS at high quality settings.

FreeSync Displays and Pricing FreeSync vs. G-SYNC Performance


View All Comments

  • lordken - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    mmh your point is? ofc if you have AMD you can only get freesync because if nothing else nvidia kept gsync for themself. What did you try to say? Nvidia is fragmenting monitor market. Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    My point is that Nvidia currently has more options for variable refresh rate tech, on top of a much larger install base, than AMD. It often helps to read a response in the context of the comment it's responding to. If you can't see how that's a relevant response to FriendlyUser's comment, then I can't help you. Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    Exactly, yet AMD fans and surprisingly, even the author Jarred (who should know better), would have you believe G-Sync somehow faces the uphill battle? Reply
  • JeffFlanagan - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Having Nvidia refuse to embrace a standard does not make overpriced Gsync devices "better." It's just Nvidia failing their users yet-again.

    They screwed me on stereoscopic 3D by dropping support for the $1K eMagin HMD when changing business partners, making it clear that they do not care to support their customers if not supporting them will drive sales of new displays. I won't get fooled again.
  • chizow - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    Nvidia failing their users, that's interesting. So they failed their users by inventing a tech the world had never seen before and bringing it to market some 18 months before the competition. Having owned and used an ROG Swift for the past 7 months which completely changed my gaming experience, I'd disagree with you.

    Nvidia once again did exactly what I expect them to do: introduce great new technology to improve their ecosystem for their users.
  • AnnihilatorX - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    For those 18 months yes, Nvidia was good. But now, It fails its customers because now, refusing to support the VESA standard, they are effectively limiting their choice of monitors and by forcing customers to pay a premium if they want smooth gameplay. Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    No, they're reinforcing their position and rewarding their customers by sticking to and developing a technology they're invested in. Their customers will pay the premium as long as their solution is better, and the only way to continue to ensure it remains better is to continue investing and developing it. Nvidia has already said they aren't done improving G-Sync, given how awesome it has been in its first incarnation, I can't wait to see what they have in store.

    Meanwhile, FreeSync is a good introduction into VRR for AMD, let's hope they continue to invest the same way Nvidia has to make sure they produce the best product they can for their users.
  • maximumGPU - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    you can't possibly believe that, it's ridiculous!
    rewarding their customers by making them pay a premium for an end result that's clearly not noticeably different from the free alternative??
    It's really business 101: they had the market cornered and they could charge whatever they want, fair play to them and well done.
    But now when an equally good free open standard alternative comes into play, not adopting it IS a complete disregard to their customers. I own nvidia gpus (sli) now, and i DON'T want to pay for their solution after seeing what freesync can do. Not providing me with that option simply makes me a disgruntled customer that'll take my business elsewhere.
    The problem is people like you who can't see that continue to blindly buy into it, making them reluctant to change their stance as long as the money rolls in. They'd drop gsync in an instant if no one buys their overpriced tech, and we'd all be better for it.
  • chizow - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    And you can't possibly believe that can you? Read some actual reviews that clearly show right now FreeSync is the inferior solution. Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    Besides the PCPerspective review (which, like this one, is a work-in-progress anyway), please provide links to these reviews (plural, as stated). Reply

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